REVIEW: MICROMAN ACROYEAR EXO ACROSTERA FIGURE
Although Microman in its most recent incarnation has pretty well run its course, it was recently announced that Hasbro has acquired the rights to its American counterpart, by name, anyway, Micronauts. Although Hasbro's plans for the Micronauts remain largely unknown at this time (they're talking major movie with toy line), it's still possible to find some of Takara's most recent Microman figures here and there if you know where to look.
Microman has a 30+ year history in Japan, and not too long after the turn of the millennium, Takara decided to overhaul the popular small figures, devising an entirely new, super-articulated body design. There's a bit of very fine print English on the package, which reads: "Time has flown by since the birth of Microman in 1974. Now... he has returned to us in a new form. We entrust him to the care of those who have a child's heart in order to explore the unforeseeable future." You know, that's really pretty cool.
The basic Microman storyline remained similar -- the heroic Microman cyborgs battling the evil Acroyear cyborgs. But the line also created female figures on both sides, any number of special teams, and a wide range of licensed properties, everything from Godzilla to Batman to Street Fighter to Aliens and more.
Ultimately, it ran its course, and came to an end not long after Takara merged with Tomy. But that doesn't change the fact that there were some seriously cool action figures that are still work a proper review, which I hope I can provide.
I acquired three figures in the ACROYEAR EXO series. There were technically four figures in the series, but the fourth, the Acroyear Emperor, was known for being highly defective, and almost invariably broken in package. This was a result of defective plastic, although it's worth noting that most Microman figures tend to be somewhat fragile relative to most American action figures. I suppose Japanese kids aren't as hard on their toys. Anyway, I don't have the Emperor, but I have the others.
This particular review will take a good look at AL-31 known as ACROYEAR EXO - ACRO-STERA!
These Microman Acroyear EXO figures all come with a product catalog, rather amusingly referred to as an "infomercial". There is a "Story" for the Acroyear EXO's within -- unfortunately, it's in Japanese. However, I headed to the Web Site "MicroForever.Com" (which I highly recommend to any Microman fan), and found a translation. How precise the translation is, I cannot say. But I offer it nevertheless. It comes from Grabz's Journal, interestingly enough. It was translated by Tomoyoshi Araki, with editing by a Paul L.
"Many years passed since we came to this beautiful planet with Emperor.
"I know...I know this planet desire destruction and be under our domination...the planet has only lower grade of living things...how easy for invasion...Optom, Stera and other members should have finish the task easily until we met the Unknown living Thing.....why? Why do they have amazing power just when we about to start the invasion. I had face these being...they have high intelligence that is not possible consider such low life form that inhibit this planet. The low life being call these being their "gods". What strange and mysterious is that they have similar body to us.
"At last, we lost battle to the Unknown Living Thing, and your Majesty fell down before their powers, but they did not steal the Majesty's soul. He only went into a long sleep. And now the time has come, the seal is broken and your Majesty will soon wake up.
I can feel that this planet no longer has the power of unknown living thing to protect it. We now have our best chance. Why these low life forms have not yet evolve they still like a child. Why did they not evolve, they have so much times to advance. This planet has degenerate and these living being are just parasite that need to be exterminate.
"Come and join us fellow supporter and wipe these parasites off the planet so we can make utopia for Your Majesty!"
Not really sure what that's all about. In fairness, English was not the primary language of the person doing the translating. Definitely sounds like these Acroyear EXO's started out to conquer what they presumed was a primitive planet and got more than they bargained on.
So, what have we got with ACRO-STERA? Well, for one thing, we have the only female figure in the group. Unlike many other action figure lines, the modern Microman has not been too shy about including females. While the line is still male-dominated, I think it would be fair to say that there's a higher percentage of females on both sides of the Microman-Acroyear conflict than is typical for almost any other action figure line, and indeed, there have been several all-female assortments of figures!
One of the most amusing female figures in the overall line is actually supposed to be one of the Acroyears, but she was molded in transparent pink, with white trim, was even given bare feet, a chrome pink head, and has switchable hair, one aspect of which has pigtails! Doctor Doom she's not, and she's darn near impossible to take seriously as one of the bad guys. She's just too cute.
Acro-Stera is a little more straightforward. The male figures in the Acroyear EXO series use the body molds from Microman's "Military Force", a specialized team of figures that molded additional holes into the body for the attachment of assorted accessories. This is important for the EXO's, since their accessories are designed to be snapped onto their bodies, as well as operate independently.
I don't recall that there were any female figures in the Military Force assortment, but Stera has clearly been given a new torso and waist piece that have similar properties.
The heads of Microman figures are always interesting. They're chromed, sometimes in silver chrome, sometimes in a color chrome. Stera's head is silver chrome, and relatively normal-looking. Most of the heroic Microman figures tend to have somewhat human-looking heads. The Acroyears could be anything.
However, the female figures generally don't go quite as far afield, and this is definitely the case with Stera, to a point. Her face is relatively human-looking, although the upper portion of it is covered by a transparent blue visor, which is removable. In the center of her forehead is a peg hole, and in the back of her head is a silver peg that is actually on a moving hinge!
Although most Microman figures use a similar body format, colors and decorations do vary. Some Microman figures are extremely ornate. Stera, like most of the Acroyear EXO's, is a little plainer than most, but still interesting, and honestly more ornate than her male counterparts
The bulk of his body is molded in an opaque blue, which is a nice offset to the pink female Acroyear I cited earlier. Most Microman figures have some level of transparent-colored parts on them, although in Stera's case, the chose of which parts are transparent is rather unusual It's the joints. Her shoulder joints, elbow joints, knee joints, ankle joints, neck joint, and hands, are all transparent blue..
I suppose this is as good a time to mention how highly articulated these figures are. That's one of the major selling points about Microman. Stera is fully poseable at the head (not counting the hinged peg), shoulders, upper-arm swivel, double jointed elbows, wrists, hands, mid-torso, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, double-jointed knees, and ankles. Most of her articulation points have multiple ranges of motion, and I'm not even going to hazard a guess as to how many little separate pieces have to be put together to assemble one of these figures.
That doesn't even count the considerable accessories OR the TWELVE extra hands, in various poses, that she comes with. And that's also two more hands than her male counterparts.
Along with the blue and transparent blue, Stera has a fair amount of white trim painted on her, including around the neck and shoulders, and upper legs. She also has some silver trim on her torso and the "belt" around her waist. The overall design is definitely more complex than either Acro-Optom or Acro-Grabz, the two male figures in the assortment that I also purchased, and overall is very impressively done. I can't imagine what it must take to paint these figures.
All of the Acroyear EXO figures come with a large accessory which is a large robotic animal. This is designed to operate independently, as well as snap onto the figure as weapons and armor.
In Acro-Stera's case, that animal is -- well -- it can be assembled, with some help from the fancy chrome silver swords that Acro-Stera also comes with, to resemble a robotic pterodactyl. However, this one is a little more vague than the other two. In its "out of package" form, it looks more like some sort of weird stingray with an extra long tail.
This critter is made up of multiple detachable parts -- even the wings are multi-sectioned. And there's enough additional pieces in the set that I think it could be put together in any number of assorted ways, most of them rather interesting. The creature, however you want to define it, is comprised of parts that are either gold chrome, or transparent blue, which is a pretty interesting color combination. In any of its forms, it will certainly have plenty of articulation.
These pieces are also designed to be worn by Acro-Stera herself. There are several suggestions shown on the package, the weirdest of which has her wearing the wings on her feet! Somewhat more traditionally, though, the wings can be attached to the back, and she can hold the swords in her hands.
However, the long tail is apparently intended to be attached to the hinged peg on the back of her head, which would doubtless make her decidedly top-heavy. There's something about these Acroyears and long headgear. One of the earlier male Acroyears in the modern Microman line also had a massive length of cybernetic gadgetry attached to the back of his head.
If you happen to acquire all four of the Acroyear EXO figures, the various large animal-type accessories can be assembled into a semi-independent creature of their own, called AcroWyvern. The package illustration shows this horrific monstrosity being worn by the Acro-Emperor. Well, I guess he'd be the most entitled.
Instructions are included with the figure, and although they're not in English, they are illustrated, so you should still be able to operate this figure and her accessories without too much difficulty, except for maybe getting her to stand up in full gear.
There's not a lot of individual backstory on the Acroyear EXO characters, but MicroForever.Com had this to say about Acro-Stera: "Stera was created with a cross between human female and prototype Acroyear by Emperor, because of this she has high Acro-Virus purity. Although Stera is cool headed, she is an extremely aggressive EXO."
I should mention about the "Acro-Virus". If memory serves, the original creators of the Micromen cyborgs -- within the story -- were looking to create a force for good, but somehow or other a number of the cyborgs were contaminated with the "Acro-Virus" which turned them evil, thus setting off the conflict.
One of these days I should really see if I can learn Japanese...
So what's my final word here? Okay, these Microman figures are not that easy to find, and with a very few notable exceptions, the line never made it to the United States. Nor do I expect these figures are going to be the least bit compatible with Hasbro's plans for the Micronauts name.
However, if you find yourself a little tired, bored, or frustrated by the current action figure offerings at your local toy department, and are wanting something a bit different, the Microman figures are not at all impossible to find.
And -- I recommend Microman. They're innovative, imaginative toys, and the only caution I would give is to handle them carefully. They are a bit on the fragile side. But if you treat them with proper care and respect, they'll make superb and interesting additions to your action figure collection.
And that certainly includes the Acroyear EXO series, and that as such certainly includes this particular individual.
The MICROMAN ACROYEAR EXO figure of ACRO-STERA (and her assorted equipment) definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!